• Nissan dismisses Micra launch in US market

    April 25, 2014
    Nissan has doused cold water on hopes that its 2015 Micra would continue its global expansion with a US debut.

    The company earlier this year announced plans to bring the mini car back into the Canadian market, where its $9,998 CAD (~$9070 USD) price tag is claimed to be the lowest MSRP in the country. The move fueled speculation that the model would make its way south of the border and compete among entry-level compacts in the US.

    “Yes there would be space for the Micra, but my view is it’s not worth it,” Nissan America product planning head Pierre Loing told AutoGuide.

    Although the Micra could easily be sold as the next cheapest car in the US, Loing suggests American buyers may not be as receptive to the tiny hatchback form that is more popular in Europe.

    The Nissan Versa — also available in Canada — already competes among the least expensive cars in the US, with a starting price of $11,990. The executive suggests both the Versa and Versa Note are already “doing very well” at the slightly higher prices.

  • GM faces SEC inquiry alongside federal, state investigations

    April 25, 2014
    General Motors has confirmed that it is currently under scrutiny by the Securities and Exchange Commission and several other federal and state agencies, while the number of lawsuits filed against the company has continued to grow.

    The company already acknowledged an inquiry spearheaded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which itself faces an investigation into the ignition-switch recall handling, however GM’s latest financial disclosures shed light on a wider range of interest.

    A form 8-K filed with the SEC notes that GM is the “subject of various inquiries, investigations, subpoenas and requests for information from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the southern district of New York, Congress, NHTSA, the SEC, and a state attorney general in connection with our recent recall.”

    The company highlights its ongoing internal investigation and belief that it is cooperating fully with all investigations, aside from the fines levied by the NHTSA for failure to respond, though it acknowledges that some of the investigations and lawsuits could lead to “damages, fines or civil and criminal penalties.”

    Through April 22, 2014 we are aware of 55 putative class actions have been filed against GM in various U.S. District Courts since the recall announcement alleging that consumers have been economically harmed by the recall and/or the underlying vehicle condition,” the disclosure adds. “In the aggregate, these cases seek recovery for compensatory damages, including for alleged diminution in value of the vehicles, punitive damages and injunctive and other relief.”

    The company posted a $1.3 billion charge in the first quarter to cover recall costs, slashing profit down to just $125 million, however the funds do not include any provision for lawsuit settlements or government penalties.

    “We are currently unable to estimate a range of reasonably possible loss for the lawsuits and investigations because these matters involve significant uncertainties at these early stages,” the filing concludes.

    Aside from direct payouts related to the ignition-switch debacle, GM also acknowledges that the lawsuits and government investigations could negatively impact its reputation and sales. Executives have separately claimed that no such effects have been observed, however the company’s first-quarter shipments grew by two percent as sales from rivals Toyota and Volkswagen climbed by six percent.

  • April on track for highest retail sales since 2005

    April 25, 2014
    Preliminary data shows that this month could mark the highest level of April retail sales since 2005.

    Thanks in part to warmer weather, a forecast jointly developed by J.D. Power and LMC Automotive predicts that retail sales with hit 1.1 million units in April, or 5 percent higher than the same month a year prior. April’s seasonally adjusted annualized selling rate (SAAR) is expected to hit 13.3 million units, which would be more than 700,000 units higher than last year’s mark.

    Moreover, April 2014 will likely represent the highest level of consumer spending ever recorded for the month. New car shoppers are predicted to spend $33.5 billion this month, representing a healthy increase over the previous high of $30.5 billion set in April 2005.

    “The April 2014 consumer spending reflects a combination of record average transaction prices–which, at nearly $29,800, surpasses the previous April high of $28,754 in 2013–and strong retail sales volume,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power.

    An interesting trend is also unfolding in April. More than 25 percent of new car buyers are expected to be 35-years-old or younger this month, matching pre-crash levels. Of those 35 and under, nearly half are taking advantage of longer-term loans that allow for lower monthly payments.

    “Among buyers who are 35-years old and younger, 44 percent opt for 72-month or longer loans, while only 25 percent of those who are 55 years and older use an extended loan term,” said Humphrey.

    Total light vehicles sales, which include fleet sales, are expect to hit 1.4 million units this month, up 4 percent from the same period last year.

  • Sold out: 2014 Chevy Camaro Z/28

    April 25, 2014
    Chevrolet’s 2014 Camaro Z/28 apparently sells just as quickly as it accelerates. The Z/28′s chief engineer has revealed that the 505 horsepower muscle car is completely sold out for the current model year.

    Speaking with Auto Guide, Al Oppenheiser, the Camaro Z/28′s head engineer, revealed that all 500 units of the Z/28 planned for the 2014 model year have been spoken for. The $75,000 Camaro Z/28 officially went on sale at the end of January.

    However, if you didn’t manage to snag one of the first 500 examples of the Z/28, you’re not completely out of luck. Chevy is planning to produce about 2,500 Z/28s for the 2015 model year run, but that number could inch higher depending on demand, Oppenheiser notes.

    General Motors will open its order book for the 2015 Z/28 sometime in the next four to six weeks.

    Intended as a track-day car, the Z/28 is one of the most focused Camaros ever built. Air conditioning is an optional extra on the Z/28, and the coupe comes standard with just one audio speaker. However, performance goodies like a 7.0L V8 and carbon ceramic disc brakes are all included as standard. You know, the important stuff.

  • Nissan recalls 2013 Pathfinders over CVT fluid leaks

    April 25, 2014
    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has posted a recall notice for certain 2013-model-year Nissan Pathfinder SUVs.

    Some of the vehicles have exhibited detachment of the transmission cooler line, which was found to be clamped with inadequate force. If the line separates from the cooler, fluid can quickly drain and cause the transmission to malfunction.

    The problem is said to be limited to Pathfinders equipped with a continuously variable transmission and manufactured from April 18, 2012 through October 3, 2012.

    The company first encountered the problem during a routine quality test drive in September, 2012. Production processes were changed to address the issue, but the company initially believed hose detachment on potentially defective vehicles did not pose a safety threat. After recently talking with the NHTSA, however, it decided to issue a voluntary recall.

    The company will formally begin the recall process for 3,065 affected vehicles sometime in May.